Master Xu Yun and Tibet 1911-12


Many forget that the Nationalists dared to attack and destroy the Shaolin Temple in Henan in 1928 – killing many of the monks. Xu Yun’s editor, Cen Xue Lu – a member of the Nationalist government – tends to play down Nationalist policy and its effects upon Buddhism. For instance, in 1911-12 when the Nationalists came to power, Xu Yun’s biography mentions that Tibet had been part of the Qing Dynasty and remained part of Nationalist China. At the time that Cen Xue Lu was editing Xu Yun’s biography just following Xu Yun’s passing in late 1959 – Tibet had become an international issue as the USA tried to undermine Mao Zedong’s Communist regime in China through the issue of Tibetan independence and the encouragement of nationalism – and this fact appears to have influenced how Cen Xue Lu carried-out his editing task. This was attempted by agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) infiltrating Tibet and encouraging otherwise peaceful Buddhist monks to take up Western fire-arms. There is archive footage of some of these monks surrendering their weapons – all out-dated rifles of Western design. The CIA caused the Tibetan monks to break their vows – but they also made Tibetan laypeople dress-up as ‘monks’ and pretend to be ordained Sangha for the newsreels. All this political activity had its roots further back in Tibetan-Chinese history. In Cen Xue Lu’s own biography (which I have translated into English on the RHACS site), he says that when he worked for the Nationalist government, he took part in policies that saw the demolishing of ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries in China to clear land for modern building projects. It was only when he met and talked with Master Xu Yun that he was persuaded to change his ways. However, within Xu Yun’s biography – for the year 1911-12 (Xu Yun’s 72nd year) Cen Xue Lu accesses the Yunnan Provincial Records for the full story of Xu Yun’s pacification of Nationalist Military Commander Li Gen Yuan. Cen Xue Lu did this because Xu Yun – with his customary humility – said only a few words in his biography about this obviously important event. The Yunnan Records discuss how the Living Buddhas and High Lamas of Tibet refused a Nationalist Government order to raise the Republic of China flag and pledge allegiance to China. As this request was met with silence, the Nationalists intended to send a massive army to punish the Tibetans. Xu Yun at this time not only converted the Nationalist Army Commander to Buddhism – but also managed to bring peace to the situation between China and Tibet. Xu Yun achieved this by requesting that the well known Tibetan Lama living in China – the Venerable Dong Bao – also known as the ‘The Dharma King of the Four Gems’, be sent to Tibet to mediate between the Tibetan authorities and the Nationalist Government. Xu Yun was sent to personally meet with Dong Bao and deliver a Government letter requesting his help. At first Dong Bao declined due to old age, but Xu Yun said that the Tibetan people still tremble at the memory of a previous punitive Chinese army led by Zhao Er Feng – and that bloodshed could be avoided through discussion. Hearing this, Dong Bao agreed to go and this matter was eventually solved peacefully. It is interesting to note that Cen Xue Lu omitted a section of the Yunnan Provincial Records from his quote in Xu Yun’s biography due to its insensitivity toward the issue of Tibetan independence – but it is also true that in the modern Western narratives surrounding the issue of Tibetan independence, Xu Yun’s involvement in the Tibetan-China issue is also completely ‘written out’ of both Tibetan and Western historical narratives.


Empty Cloud: Translated by Charles Luk & Revised by Richard Hunn, Element Books (1988) – Chapter Eight ‘The Peacemaker’ Pages 84-89.

Xu Yun’s Autobiography in the original Chinese Language:

Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters: By Mikel Dunham

Wiki CIA in Tibet: 

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

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